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New Initiative Connects Seniors and Other Vulnerable Populations with Tech-Savvy Volunteers to Help Navigate Complicated Vaccine Appointment Systems

Successful Pilot Program Now Replicated Nationwide

(NEW YORK) — The Vaccine Appointment Network‘s project template helps communities connect tech-savvy volunteers with seniors and other vulnerable populations to help them get appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine. Powered by Repair the World, the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center in Washington DC (EDCJCC), and Hillel at the George Washington University (GW Hillel), the Networks’ first training session included hundreds of participants from organizations around the country. Organizations can access the Network’s toolkit to start building a local program to match volunteers to vaccine-eligible community members locally.

“We’re building a network of organizations and young people who are committed to helping the most vulnerable get this vaccination,” said Jordan Fruchtman, Senior Director of the Jewish Service Alliance at Repair the World, which mobilizes Jews and their communities to take action to pursue a just world, igniting a lifelong commitment to service. “The model is proven to work, and by providing an easy-to-use project template for communities to adapt the program locally, we can impact thousands of lives.”

EDCJCC and GW Hillel launched the model in Washington, D.C. by connecting their community’s population of seniors with student volunteers, respectively,

“Young people want to make a difference and help at risk older adults to better navigate the complex vaccine system and secure appointments,” says Reuben Rotman, President/CEO of NJHSA, which is sharing the Vaccine Appointment Network’s Toolkit with its Network. “We’re excited to bring this much needed program model to front line Jewish human service agencies and their clients.”

By putting out a call to their population eligible for the vaccine, EDCJCC recruited 200 seniors for the program in one week. A similar call from GW Hillel for volunteers resulted in 100 sign ups—just in the first week. They’ve now matched 200 seniors with volunteers.

“The COVID-19 vaccine registration process is tedious, frustrating, and emotional for many, but especially for our country’s most vulnerable,” says volunteer Sarah Boxer of George Washington University’s Class of 2022. “After a year of immense trauma and suffering, older adults should not need to navigate ten different websites and compete with younger, faster typers for a potentially life-saving vaccine. The Vaccine Sign-Up Support project found a way to build companionship and community out of an exhausting process. It feels incredible to be part of the GW Hillel community knowing that we are willing to take meaningful action to help when a need arises.”

Background

The COVID-19 vaccine roll out in the United States is in desperate need of volunteers. Eligible community members across the country,  particularly seniors over 65, are struggling to navigate the complex online systems needed to schedule an appointment to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Young adults make ideal volunteers for this effort, with native internet skills and a desire to support their communities.

Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, DC (EDCJCC)  and  Hillel at the George Washington University (GW Hillel)  pioneered a successful approach to this problem by connecting EDCJCC’s population of seniors with GW Hillel’s population of student volunteers. Repair the World loved this model – and we wanted to bring a similar strategy to as many communities as possible. Recognizing that a hyper-localized vaccine roll-out required a local approach,  Repair the World  set out to replicate EDCJCC and GW Hillel’s materials to create a templated vaccine sign-up support program toolkit for any local community to adapt to their needs.

According to Jewish tradition, someone who saves a life is credited as if they have saved an entire world. By supporting vulnerable community members in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, we have a chance to live out the Jewish value of piku’ach nefesh (saving a soul) in a direct and meaningful way.

The Vaccine Appointment Network is a project template for a community-based program matching tech-savvy volunteers with eligible community members (focusing on seniors ages 65+) for support navigating the COVID-19 vaccine appointment process.